Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 8828–8837 | Cite as

Nitrogen transfer from one plant to another depends on plant biomass production between conspecific and heterospecific species via a common arbuscular mycorrhizal network

  • Yuejun HeEmail author
  • Johannes H. C. Cornelissen
  • Pengpeng Wang
  • Ming Dong
  • Jing Ou
Research Article


The formation of a common mycorrhizal network (CMN) between roots of different plant species enables nutrient transfers from one plant to another and their coexistence. However, almost all studies on nutrient transfers between CMN-connected plants have separately, but not simultaneously, been demonstrated under the same experimentation. Both conspecific and heterospecific seedlings of Cinnamomum camphora, Bidens pilosa, and Broussonetia papyrifera native to a karst habitat in southwest China were concurrently grown in a growth microcosm that had seven hollowed compartments (six around one in the center) being covered by 35.0-μm and/or 0.45-μm nylon mesh. The Ci. camphora in the central compartment was supplied with or without Glomus etunicatum and 15N to track N transfers between CMN-connected conspecific and heterospecific seedlings. The results showed as follows: significant greater nitrogen accumulations, biomass productions, 15N content, % Ntransfer, and the Ntransfer amount between receiver plant species ranked as Br. papyriferaBi. pilosa > Ci. camphora under both M+ and M, and as under M+ than under M for Ci. camphora but not for both Bi. Pilosa and Br. papyrifera; the CMN transferred more nitrogen (15N content, % Ntransfer, and Ntransfer amount) from the donor Ci. camphora to the heterospecific Br. papyrifera and Bi. pilosa, with a lower percentage of nitrogen derived from transfer (%NDFT). These findings suggest that the CMN may potentially regulate the nitrogen transfer from a donor plant to individual heterospecific receiver plants, where the ratio of nitrogen derived from transfer depends on the biomass strength of the individual plants.


15Bidens pilosa Broussonetia papyrifera Cinnamomum camphora Common mycorrhizal networks Glomus etunicatum Nitrogen transfer 



We thank Prof. Gui-Jie Ding, Dr Li-Fei Yu, Dr Ji-Ming Liu, Dr De-Lu Wang, Dr Xiao-Li Wei, and Dr Zhi-Tai Wang (Forestry College of Guizhou University) for supporting this research. We thank professor Xin-hua He (College of Resources and Environment, Southwest University) for the suggestions and writing helps of this paper, and we thank Chun-Yu Wu and Pei-Yun Xie for helping with the experimental process.

Funding information

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 31360106, 31660156, 31000204, 31560223), the Provincial Key Technologies R&D program of Guizhou Province of China (NY[2014]3029, [2016] Zhi-cheng 2805), and the Special Program Foundation on Training the Young Talents for Science and Technology by Guizhou Province (Qian-ke-he-ren [2013]10), and the Science and Technology Program by Guizhou Province (Qian-ke-he Platform Talents [2017] 5788).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics statement

The work described has not been published before. The work is not under consideration for publication anywhere else, and its publication has been approved by all coauthors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuejun He
    • 1
    Email author
  • Johannes H. C. Cornelissen
    • 2
  • Pengpeng Wang
    • 1
  • Ming Dong
    • 3
  • Jing Ou
    • 1
  1. 1.Forestry CollegeGuizhou UniversityGuiyangChina
  2. 2.Systems Ecology, Department of Ecological Science, Faculty of Earth and Life SciencesVU UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.College of Life and Environmental SciencesHangzhou Normal UniversityHangzhouChina

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